Sowing Seeds Directly in the Garden
Seed Sowing Tips
- Prepare the bed well before sowing – till and remove any clumps or stones
- Be sure the soil and air are warm enough before you sow
- Thin seedlings before they get too crowded
- Follow instructions on the seed packet
- Try larger seeds first – they’re easier to sow and grow
Are you a little intimidated by the thought of starting plants from seeds indoors under lights? No problem – you can still grow your own plants from seed by sowing them directly in the garden. And now is a great time to do it!
Seeds to Sow Directly in the Garden
Many vegetables and flowers, especially annuals, do just fine sown directly into the garden. Some prefer it, including the plants listed below.
Many vegetables should be direct sown in the garden, including:
- Swiss chard
Many annual flowers should also be started in the garden, such as:
- Bachelor’s buttons
- Sweet peas
If this is your first time growing plants from seed, or you’re concerned about whether or not they’ll survive, you may want to start with larger seeds. They’re planted deeper and are tough enough to survive most outdoor conditions. Some of the easiest large seeds to grow are cucumbers, squash, beans, peas and sweet peas, marigolds, and sunflowers.
Choosing What to Grow
There are so many wonderful varieties of vegetables and flowers that you generally can’t find in the garden center. These are great candidates for growing from seed. I love heirloom tomatoes, squash, and beans, as well as interesting lettuces like Flashy Trout Back and Ruby Gem, so I grow them all from seed.
When choosing seeds to sow directly in the garden, make sure that they’ll do well in your climate and garden conditions (or in containers, if that’s what you’ll be using).
The seed packet will generally have all the information you need, such as the temperature at which it’s safe to sow the seeds outdoors, whether they need light to germinate, how long they’ll take to germinate, and the number of growing days they’ll need to reach maturity.
If you’re growing vegetables, make sure you choose vegetable varieties that suit the length of your growing season – you want to be able to harvest your crop before end-of-season frost arrives. For gardeners in many regions, that means you probably won’t be able to direct-sow edibles that demand a long, warm growing season, such as tomatoes and eggplants. Those crops may require that you buy seedlings from your local garden center or start the plants indoors under grow lights.
Related Article >> When to Start Seeds Indoors
Preparing to Sow Your Seeds
Garden beds used for direct sowing should be well-prepared, with fine soil enriched with compost and no weeds or large stones.
If using a roto-tiller, be careful not to till the soil into a fine dust – you don’t want to destroy the soil structure.
And if you’ll be growing vegetables, consider getting a soil test to determine which amendments you may need to add to best support a healthy crop.
How to Sow Seeds Outdoors
Seeds can be broadcast freely or planted in rows, depending on what plants you are growing and your garden design.
Pay attention to the seed packet directions – don’t sow your seeds too thickly or you’ll just have to pull most of them out. Then again, not all seeds will germinate, some will be eaten by birds, squirrels, and other animals, some will be washed away by rain or watering while others will fry during an unexpectedly hot day, some will be killed by pathogens in your garden soil, …. The bottom line – sow seeds a little more heavily than the seed packet says and keep a close eye on them.
Another option is to use a seeding square to sow seeds at precisely the right spacing for square foot gardening (or intensive cropping). This takes the guess-work out of seed sowing and makes the job much easier as you don’t have to measure off a 1 by 1-foot grid. Here are some good options:
Product Review >> Garden Stamp
Product Review >> Seeding Square
If seeds need light to germinate, don’t cover them with soil or growing medium – just press them firmly into the surface so they don’t blow away.
All seeds should have good contact with the soil, so tamp them down gently after sowing (some gardeners recommend using a flat board to tamp down larger areas).
Don’t let the soil dry out – keep it moist, but not soggy, and water with a gentle spray to avoid disturbing the seeds.
>> Recommended hose nozzles for watering seedlings
After seeds germinate and the plants develop their first true leaves, thin the seedlings as the packet directs.
Don’t be tempted to leave all the seedlings in the bed, thinking you’ll get more for your money. Be ruthless. Without enough space, plants can’t develop the strong stems, leaves, and roots needed to produce flowers and vegetables. And without enough room for air to circulate, you increase the risk of diseases like powdery mildew.
After all of that, there’s still the chance that you won’t have quite the crop of vegetables or flowers you were hoping for – but there’s something very satisfying about watching them grow, flower and/or fruit and knowing that you made it happen!